October 16, 2016
By Blanca Fernandez
Oftentimes, it seems the word “Hispanic” translates into “his panic.” In the words of comedian George Lopez, “Who is panicking? And more so, why is anyone panicking because of me?”
The general stigma of our beautiful cultural roots is laden with hatred toward us stemming from politicians on soap boxes professing the betterment of America and movies and TV shows depicting us in roles as maids, gardeners and even criminals. We don’t all speak in broken English, nor are we limited to those occupations. Widely misunderstood and often stereotyped, we are often cast aside as if any of the generalizations were true, thus making acceptance that much more difficult.
In a world with so much information readily available, ignorance is a choice. As a whole, we must abstain from generalizing an entire population simply because of its color, creed or occupation. Not all Latinos are any of the above, just like we’re not all Mexicans. In years past, Puerto Rican people often were asked for their green cards at PennDOT when they went to transfer their driver’s licenses. If that’s not ignorance, I don’t know what is. Most others outside this region know that Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory, a commonwealth just like Pennsylvania.
Ignorance like this makes me wonder what actually has been taught in local schools. We know that the history of Scranton includes coal mines and railroads and it is totally understandable and commendable to learn about this history. However, national and world history also are necessary. Education is the key to eradicating ignorance. If our kids are our future, what future would we have if they are not well-prepared to compete with the rest of the world?
It was sad to see that most locals have had many misconceptions about Latinos. Bringing awareness to this issue became necessary and the inception of the annual Scranton Latin Festival was based precisely on that note. Its mission was to educate the masses on the 20 different Latino countries. Its goal has been to showcase as many of the Latino countries as possible in an effort to show the distinctions and similarities of each. We all speak Spanish and yet we are different. We have slight deviations in our dialects but we manage to understand one another quite well.
Another misconception by non-Latinos is that when someone speaks Spanish, it’s because they are speaking about non-Spanish speakers nearby. While I will agree that it may be awkward at times and people may feel excluded when it occurs, rest assured that the conversation likely is not about you. For example, think about your last visit to a Chinese buffet. Do you think that the waitresses there speak to one another in their language about you and how many servings you’ve had? Does it stop you from dining there? Do you take offense to their language? I think it’s safe to say that the average person could care less and assumes that it’s likely that the person cannot speak English. It is not intended to isolate anyone purposely, since we are all trying to gain acceptance in this harsh, misdirected world in which Latinos are seemingly among the primary targets.
Separately, we have our own traditions, beliefs and culture but have learned to extend patience to those who do not understand us. For example, it’s not uncommon in our culture to discipline our children when they step out of line. Every Latino knows what a “chancleta” (slipper) is. Latina mothers often use a slipper to whack their ill-behaved child on their little bottoms. In our culture, it’s totally acceptable, whereas others may disagree. We teach manners and respect as well as practical life skills like cooking, cleaning and budgeting. We love deeply and care about others, with family being first, of course. We are eager to lend a helping hand to anyone and for the most part, we are friendly. Try saying “hola” (hello) to a Spanish-speaking person and see the response. The attempt alone at connecting with us is huge. It signifies acceptance in an often hateful world.
I’m happy to report that Scranton has progressed in terms of embracing, accepting and tolerating its booming Latino population. More Latino businesses are opening and are well-received by Scranton natives. The latest additions are Puerto Rican “lechoneras” (fire pit roasted pork) in South Side, a Caribbean food truck in West Scranton and an international deli on Cedar Avenue. All of them boast delicious food. If we’re not known for anything else, trust and believe that our food is finger-licking good.
To dispel another misconception, Caribbean food is not all spicy.
I urge people to have patience, to be open-minded, to learn to love our fellow adversaries and to strive for unity. After all, we all belong to the same race . . . human.
Source: The Times-Tribune